Ollie Schniederjans to make first PGA Tour start at Valspar
Story by Andy Zunz
Ollie Schniederjans is taking a visit to the future this week. Or, at least the future he has mapped out for himself.
The Georgia Tech senior will make his first PGA Tour start at the Valspar Championship Thursday in Palm Harbor, Fla. It's the first of what Schniederjans hopes will be many such starts.
"This is where I want to be. I want to be playing on the PGA Tour," said the World No. 1 amateur. "This is my dream to play these events, so it's special to get my first start."
Schniederjans has made starts at professional events before – he tied for fifth at the Web.com Tour's 2014 Air Capital Classic and made one cut out of two European Tour events in the past year – but "this is another level," says Schniederjans.
The Yellow Jacket earned the PGA Tour start with a two-shot victory at the 2014 Valspar Invitational. He'll miss a start at the Seminole Intercollegiate this weekend, but will meet back up with the team as it heads to compete at the 2015 Valspar Invitational March 23-24. Schniederjans opened his senior season with a win at the Carpet Capital Collegiate, but has not taken medalist honors since.
He's hoping he can regain that form this week at Innisbrook Resort's vaunted Copperhead Course.
"I've played courses like this before, but with the setup they're going to have for us, being a PGA Tour event, the greens will be fast, the pins will be tough, the rough will be up. You can't fake it out here," said Schniederjans. "I don't have any expectations. I haven't gotten into a groove competitively yet. I've played only five tournament rounds in the past four months.
"It seems like you have to be on the top of your game or you're going to miss the cut. So, I'm hoping my game is ready to go."
The six-time winner was also named a semifinalist for the Amateur Athletic Union's Sullivan Award this week. The award, which honors the most outstanding amateur athlete across all sports, has been won by Michael Phelps, Shawn Johnson, Tim Tebow and Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the past. There's one former winner of particular interest who Schniederjans hopes to join.
"We have a fellow Georgia Tech golfer who won a long time ago, Bobby Jones," said Schinederjans of the Sullivan Award's first honoree. "I know there are some extremely good athletes I'm going up against who are much more high profile than I am, so we'll see what happens. But, it's an honor just to be a semifinalist."
Voting for the 14 semifinalists, which includes Oregon's Marcus Mariota and Duke's Jahlil Okafor, remains open.